U.S.: ISIS chief Baghdadi’s deputy killed in airstrike
The militant group's second-in-command had been killed in an airstrike on Tuesday, the White House said
Hajji Mutazz, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s second-in-command, was killed in a U.S. military airstrike on August 18, the White House confirmed on Friday.
“Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz ... was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an ISIL media operative known as Abu Abdullah,” White House spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics,” Price said, referring to the group by an acronym.
The White House said the dead leader was a “primary coordinator” for moving weapons, explosives, vehicles, and people between Iraq and Syria. He was in charge of operations in Iraq and helped plan the group’s offensive in Mosul in June of last year.
The United States and its allies stage daily air strikes on ISIS targets in the group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. A drone strike last month killed a senior Islamic State leader in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
Hayali - also known as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani - was reportedly a former Iraqi officer under Saddam Hussein and had served time in a U.S.-run prison before becoming “the right hand man” of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
One counter-terrorism specialist cautioned that the impact of the killing on ISIS could be short-lived.
“My experience in looking at the Islamic State suggests they have demonstrated an ability to move people up into positions” when high-ranking operatives are killed, said Seth Jones, a former Pentagon official now at the RAND Corporation.
Jones said how much territory ISIS controls was more important in determining the group’s power. “The key issue is territorial control,” he said.
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